Structure or process? Facilitative leadership in the context of knowledge work : a practitioner perspective

Rabie, Rochelle (2013-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The thesis examines the notion of facilitative leadership from the perspective of different views of organizational knowledge. Facilitative leadership is a leadership style that is often referred to in the context of knowledge work by practitioners and increasingly appears in organization and management literature. Despite the regularity with which the notion of facilitative leadership is invoked, there has been a lack of critical scrutiny. It is not clear from the current literature what facilitative leadership is supposed to do and how it is supposed to accomplish it. The thesis addresses this lack of reflection by focusing on the object of facilitation in the view of practitioners. This is done by reviewing the literature on leadership in general and facilitative leadership in particular. It is argued that the interest in facilitation is linked to the changing nature of work that requires the enabling of knowledge dynamics in organizations. It is posited that the way in which organizational knowledge is understood will influence what is seen as the object of facilitation. The pluralist epistemology that underpins the mainstream knowledge management literature is reviewed and particular attention is paid to the difference between a view of knowledge as possession and as practice. It is expected that different views of organizational knowledge will not only inform different knowledge management strategies, but also different forms of facilitative leadership. This insight is then tested, by interviewing practitioners that subscribe to a facilitative leadership style. This enquiry comes in the form of a two-phased interview: the first phase involving a set of structured questions aimed at determining the knowledge view held and the second phase consisting of a range of open-ended questions intended to reveal the understanding of facilitation. After the initial hypothesis is tweaked in light of empirical findings, a conclusion is made that practitioners are more nuanced in their understanding of knowledge than the literature gives them credit for. Although empirical results confirm a relationship between knowledge views held and the understanding of facilitative leadership, this link is not as strong as was initially expected. This may is explained by the fact that, in the coalface, most practitioners cannot actually afford to be rigorous and meticulous about exactly how they define organisational knowledge. Also, practitioners all face certain unique constraints and contextual issues which influence their ability and freedom to subscribe to a certain view of knowledge management and facilitation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek fasiliterende leierskap vanuit twee perspektiewe op organisatoriese kennis. Fasiliterende leierskap is 'n leierskapstyl wat dikwels vanuit ‘n kennis-konteks na verwys word en die term verskyn toenemend in organisatoriese- en bestuursliteratuur. Ten spyte van die feit dat die term gebruik word, is daar 'n gebrek aan kritiese ondersoek na die aard van fasiliterende leierskap. In bestuursliteratuur word die presiese rol van fasiliterende leierskap, asook hoe hierdie rol vervul moet word, nie duidelik uiteengesit nie. Die tesis spreek hierdie gebrek aan deur die fokus van fasilitering, vanuit die praktisynsoogpunt, te bekyk. Dit word gedoen deur leierskapsliteratuur te hersien en spesifiek te kyk na wat bedoel word met fasiliterende leierskap en die konnotasies daarvan. Daar word geargumenteer dat die toenemende belangstelling in fasilitering gekoppel is aan die veranderde aard van werk in die kennis-era. Hierdie verandering het tot gevolg dat organisaies nou die bevordering van kennis-dinamika as prioriteit ag. Die tesis argumenteer dat die fokus van fasilitering bepaal word deur die manier waarop organisatoriese kennis gekonsepsualiseer word. Daar word ondersoek ingestel na die pluralistiese epistemologie, wat grootendeels onderliggend is aan meeste kennisbestuursliteratuur, met ‘n spesifieke fokus op die verskil tussen kennis as ‘n besitting en kennis as‘n praktyk. Die hipotese is dat verskillende sienings van organisatoriese kennis nie net verskillende kennisbestuurstrategieë tot gevolg sal hê nie, maar ook verskillende vorme van fasiliterende leierskap. Hierdie insig word dan getoets deur onderhoude te voer met praktisyne wat hulself beskryf as fasiliterende leiers. Die ondersoek bestaan uit 'n twee-fase onderhoud: die eerste fase behels 'n stel gestruktureerde vrae wat daarop gemik is om die kennis-siening te bepaal en die tweede fase bestaan uit 'n stel oop vrae wat probeer om die begrip van fasilitering te ontbloot. Nadat die aanvanklike hipotese hersien is in die lig van empiriese bevindinge, word die gevolgtrekking gemaak dat praktisyne meer genuanseerd is in hul begrip van kennis as wat die literatuur voorstel. Hoewel die empiriese resultate bevestig dat daar ‘n verhouding is tussen die siening van kennis en die manier waarop fasiliterende leierskap verstaan word, is hierdie verhouding nie so sterk soos wat aanvanklik verwag is nie. Dit kan verklaar word deur te verwys na die feit dat, in realiteit, meeste praktisyne nie kan bekostig om streng en nougeset te wees oor die wyse waarop hul organisatoriese kennis definieer nie. Daar word ten slotte aangevoer dat alle praktisyne unieke beperkinge en omstandighede het wat hul vermoë en vryheid om 'n bepaalde siening in te neem beïnvloed.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80100
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